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SpaceX and Air Force Make Deal for Rocket Landing Pads

SpaceX will take over a mothballed rocket launch site in Florida to develop landing pads for its Falcon family of rockets, the U.S. Air Force said Tuesday. A draft environmental assessment showed that the California-based company plans to build the pads at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 13, which was used for 51 Atlas and Agena rockets between 1958 and 1978. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The assessment was prepared for the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees commercial space launches and landings in the United States, "This is a classic combination of a highly successful launch past morphing into an equally promising future," Brig. Gen. Nina Armagno, commander of the Air Force's 45th Space Wing, said in a statement.

SpaceX currently flies its Falcon 9 rockets from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 40, and the company is in the process of taking over Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, located just north of the Air Force facility. It also has a launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and last month signed a similar deal to take over a second site there for a Falcon Heavy landing pad.

SpaceX has been developing technology to reuse its rockets, potentially slashing launch costs. An initial attempt last month to fly a discarded first stage back to a landing platform in the ocean nearly succeeded, and the company plans to try again when a different Falcon 9 launches the Deep Space Climate Observatory.

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— Reuters